The Best Travel-Inspired Recipes to Make While Stuck at Home
I’ve always thought that the way to know a culture’s heart is through their stomach, and one of the things self-isolating has me missing most of all is the experience of tasting a new cuisine for the very first time. Just this spring I was planning on trying my very first gibanica in Belgrade and the famous mushroom sandwich my best friend’s mom makes at their home in Stockholm. I had so looked forward to the tastes and smells that awaited me, but alas…homemade grilled cheeses at 1 AM aren’t so bad, right?
Now, I love a little home cooking as much as the next typically homesick wanderer, but when you’re stuck inside, dreaming of the trips that should’ve been, the tastes of familiar food turn sour and unexciting. There’s simply no way my daily avocado toast is satisfying my need for culinary adventure, no matter how many sun-dried tomatoes I put on top.
I’m assuming if you’re reading this, you’re feeling the same. Well, never fear! As usual, I have been combing the internet for edible remedies to our boredom and have compiled a list of travel-inspired recipes to help us feed the beast of wanderlust. Read on to hear how to travel the world, all the from the comfort (and safety) of your own kitchen.
Vegan Paella (Spain)
So, your trip to Spain was canceled due to a global pandemic, huh? What a coincidence so was mine!
Ok, I wasn’t actually going to Spain, but I was going to other parts of Western Europe so, you know, the neighborhood.
Let me rub salt in your wound by giving you a taste of what you’re missing in España other than the historic cities, beautiful beaches, and legendary music.
Paella, often thought of as the Spanish national dish, is one of the most famous (and delicious) fares to come out of the country. Typically made with meat and/or seafood, this vegan recipe is for us herbivores, but can easily be tweaked with the usual proteins.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 4 cups vegetable broth, low sodium
- 1 teaspoon saffron threads
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
- 5 cloves garlic, chopped, minced or crushed
- 1 large tomato, diced (sub 1/2 cup canned)
- 1 1/2 cups Bomba Rice (sub arborio rice)
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon sea salt, more to taste
- Fresh cracked pepper, to taste
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme (sub 1 teaspoon dried)
- 3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
Total Time: 45 mins
You know what’s funny about the word “croissant?” If you break the word in half and (in my case) use your very elementary level of French fluency to translate, you will find the word actually means “believe health.”
So, I guess this means we can finally consider croissants a health food??
What’s even weirder about these little puffs of heaven, is that they’re Austrian in origin, if you consider a Viennese man creating them in Paris an Austrian origin story. The more you know!
Wherever they come from, they’re delicious and decadent and make me feel Parisian which is always a nice shift from the norm.
Follow this detailed recipe to make your own! Tout Suite!
For Croissant Dough
- 4¼ tsp. fresh dry instant yeast (check expiration date)
- ¾ C. + 1¾ tbsp. cold water, cold
- 4¼ C. + 2½ tbsp. all-purpose bread flour, more dusting cutting board
- 2 tbsp. European or Vermont Style Butter with 83-84% butterfat content, unsalted, softened.
- 1/3 C. + 1¾ tsp. granulated sugar
- 1 large whole egg
- 1 tbsp. heavy cream
- 2⅛ tsp. kosher salt
For Making Butter Slab
2½ sticks European or Vermont Style Butter with 83-84% butterfat content.
For Egg Wash
2 whole eggs, 1 small pinch of salt, and a splash of milk, mixed.
Total Time: 4 hrs 30 mins
Servings: 14 Croissant
If your pre-corona plans had you heading for India, I’m jealous (and hoping you got a full refund for those tickets because darn, they’re expensive).
I tend to bop around the globe quite a bit, but when I’m not traveling I live in New York City, the home of some of the greatest Indian cooking in America. Pretty much everyone in NYC has a neighborhood Indian spot and it’s a pretty safe guess that besides naan and basmati rice, that spot’s most popular menu item is dal.
Dal is an extremely versatile dish, and though Indian states all have their favorite rendition, what most Americans are familiar with is tarka dal, popular for its simplicity, affordability, and deliciousness.
If you’re not nearby a local expert for takeout or want to try your hand at the real thing, follow this simple recipe. Cooking time is 2 hours, a whopping 14 hours less than your average flight from the east coast. Now that’s a travel time I can get behind.
- 250g/9oz chana dal, rinsed until the water runs clear
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 3–4 whole green chilies, pricked with a knife
- 2cm/¾in piece fresh root ginger, peeled and cut into thin strips
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
- 3 tomatoes
- ¾ tsp ground turmeric
- ¾ tsp garam masala
- 1½ tsp ground coriander
- handful fresh coriander leaves, chopped
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
Total Time: Approx. 2 hrs
Colcannon Potatoes, Ireland
If there’s one ingredient that immediately comes to mind when you think Ireland, it’s got to be the potato. Stewed, fried, mashed, there’s just nothing you can’t do and the Irish haven’t already done to the things.
When researching for this article, I reached out to a good friend who’s Irish - like, actually Irish, not just someone with freckles who watched Normal People on the BBC 100 times - and she promptly informed me that the most traditional form of the spud is colcannon potatoes. So, like a good journalist, I looked it up and…
Look, they’re basically mashed potatoes, okay? I mean, their differentiating ingredients are leafy greens like kale or cabbage, but other than that it’s all butter and starch, bacon too if you’re inclined. But to be honest with you, I wouldn’t expect anything less from a trip to the Emerald Isle and I can just picture eating up a bowl with a pint and some soda bread, so it’s made the cut.
If you don’t already know how to mash potatoes, here’s a specific recipe for colcannon; give em’ a try, they’re great craic!
- 1 medium head cabbage (about 2 pounds), shredded
- 4 pounds medium potatoes (about 8), peeled and quartered
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 cup chopped green onions
- 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
- Minced fresh parsley
- Crumbled cooked bacon
Total Time: 1 hr
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, food is the best part about traveling. You may recognize this mild obsession of mine from the various gastronomic articles I’ve written in recent months, and let me be real: I will never get tired of talking about food, so it’s safe to these aren’t my last thoughts on the subject.
If you have any internationally-inspired dishes from your travels or your homeland that you’d think I’d like, send them to me at email@example.com and, as always Travel Safe and Travel Covered (even if it’s only from your kitchen).
Alexa Lieberthal is a professional actress, singer, and writer from Boston, MA. Though her passions are many, and range from fitness to Star Trek, the biggest of all is travel. Alexa is based in NYC, but has spent the past 4 years exploring and performing in places all over the world, including Western Europe, the Caribbean Islands, and the U.K. Most recently, she spent two years seeing the world by working aboard AIDA Cruises, singing and sailing and savoring the earth. The next place on her travel bucket-list is Berlin, Germany! You can follow Alexa's adventures on Instagram @ny.see and her website areneeact.com.